It's that time of the year when homeschool curriculum catalogs start filling up my mailbox. Homeschool publishers want you to get a jumpstart on the next school year. But if you're homeschooling a preschooler, do you really need a purchased curriculum? My response is yes and no. Yes, you need some form of planned activities, but no, you don't need to spend $300 on a packaged curriculum.
With sites like Starfall and DLTK, homeschoolers can print out activities and lessons for free. However, sometimes it's easier to just purchase a basic curriculum book instead of wasting time and money printing out alphabet and number pages. For handwriting, letter recognition, and beginning reading, I think workbooks are a nice supplement to a hands-on curriculum. For arts and crafts ideas and self-created worksheets, the Internet provides plenty of free items.
Some curriculum publishers offer manipulatives as part of the curriculum price, but many of these manipulatives are unncessary. For example, I just recieved a catalog that charges around $150 for the preschool curriculum. It includes workbooks, reading books, and a couple containers of math rods and counters. If you take out the math rods and counters and just order the books separately, you spend about $90. There are so many things you can use in place of counters and rods that you probably already have around your home. Crayons, coins, buttons, and wooden skewers are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head that can be used as counters. So, while buying a curriculum takes the guess work out of lessons and activities, make sure you're buying things you really need in order to teach. Also, don't assume the package price is always the best deal, either.